There was only one problem.
"We wound up answering more calls than we anticipated," said NHRFR Battalion Chief Ron Tompkins, who headed the marine unit of the Regional. "Plus, the water was just too rough for that little boat. We had to turn back a few times because the swells and the wake caused by the ferries made traveling too difficult in that boat. We had to get a new boat. The other one was basically out of service for a while. We really couldn't do much with it."
A few months ago, Tompkins noticed a classified advertisement in a newspaper. The Stony Point (N.Y.) Fire Department had a boat for sale.
Tompkins took the ad and went to the administration of the NHRFR. This was a purchase that had to be made.
"I thought it was perfect for us," Tomkins said. "I thought it was a great buy. When I spoke to the officials, they seemed real excited and wanted to get this boat. They all realized the need and gave us the permission to purchase the boat."
The NHRFR - which serves North Bergen, West New York, Union City, Weehawken and Guttenberg - purchased the 27-foot Shamrock fireboat from Stony Point for $30,000. Built in 1986, the fireboat is powered by a 5.7 liter, fuel-injected Ford V-8 Marine Engine that gives it a top speed of 30 knots (roughly 35 miles per hour). The fireboat, also known as Marine 1, has a hose that can spray water pumped directly from the river at 550 gallons per minute.
The regional unveiled the new fireboat last Monday, becoming the only fire department boat of its kind in the state of New Jersey.
The fireboat will increase public safety, especially along the North Hudson waterfront where continuing development brings new public piers, river walks, marinas and restaurants.
With the added amenities, more and more residents are coming to the waterfront each year. Marine 1, which has the ability to put out fires and perform water surface rescues, will provide extra public safety protection.
"In the past, we would depend upon New York City harbor patrol and the United States Coast Guard," said Tompkins. "But we can't do that anymore. We have to be able to stand on our own two feet. The Coast Guard moved their base from Governor's Island to the tip of Staten Island, so that would make response time like 40 minutes. And they don't do firefighting anymore. So that would take too long if we had a fire along the waterfront."
Tompkins said that this sturdier vessel can handle the wakes and rougher currents.
"It's much more powerful," Tompkins said. "The capacity of the pump is more than double of the other one. Plus, we can fit more men on the boat and have them on the boat safer than before. It's going to make our job that much easier."
The boat also has a 30-inch draft and can stand in three feet of water, meaning that it can get close to the shore. The NHRFR fireboat is currently docked at the Lincoln Harbor Yacht Club in Weehawken.
Steve Israel, owner of the Yacht Club, has given the NHRFR a spot right next to the pier free of charge that grants the department immediate access to the fireboat.
Marine 1 has already made a difference. Since being put into service, the Marine Operations department assisted the New York Harbor Patrol in pulling critically injured victims of a speedboat crash out of the water, and they helped FDNY with rescuing victims of a capsized sailboat.
NHRFR has already plotted response times and are ready to provide mutual aide anywhere along the North Hudson waterfront down through Kearny, Jersey City and Bayonne.
The department's Marine Division has also submitted documentation to New York City's emergency operators and has already completed a ferry disaster drill in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard, Office of Emergency Management, and the New York City Fire and Police departments.
Thirty-six NHRFR firefighters have already received basic watercraft operation training from U.S. Coast Guard Flotilla 10-2, based out of Secaucus.
Tompkins said that Engine 3 in Weehawken has been assigned to monitoring the boat, but Squad 1 will serve as a backup. Next year, when the new firehouse on Port Imperial Boulevard in West New York is completed, then the base of operations will move there.